Can Transformers: Fall of Cybertron make a run for a 2012 Game of the Year award? For nostalgic fans of the G1 cartoon series, it’s already in the running months before launch.
Let’s be honest. There was a time when cartoon and comic book inspired games generally sucked. Truthfully, any licensed property, turned video game, was typically given the stepchild treatment by developers and publishers. Slap a big name on a game and hope the masses of children urge their parents into buying the game for them.
However, in recent years, developers and publishers have begun to break down that trend. Warner Bros Interactive and Rocksteady Games gave us Batman: Arkham Asylum and its follow-up, Batman: Arkham City. Two awesome games featuring The Dark Knight. At BuzzFocus, these two titles were the best Batman games since the 1990 NES game from Sunsoft.
Rocksteady wasn’t the only developer who wanted to show the world that licensed properties could yield great games. In 2010, High Moon Studios gave us Transformers: War for Cybertron. It was quite possibly the best, and in my opinion the ONLY, Transformers game ever made.
Now, High Moon Studios and Activision are raising the stakes on the franchise with Transformers: Fall of Cybertron. And, their doing it by sticking to the same tried and trued values they imbued into the first game. The companies are sticking with a G1 edge story, backed by strong voice over, crisp graphics, seamless third-person shooter gameplay and a whole lot of heart.
If you saw the trailers, you probably already know that the Decepticon combiner Bruticus and the infamous Autobot Dinobot Grimlock are both in the story. During our preview, we got to learn more about these famed characters and their involvement in the Cybertronian wars. Aaron Archer, toy designer at Hasbro, helped shape the story for the new game. Instead of just an ancillary story, Hasbro and Activision worked out a deal where certain story elements in the game will serve as official Transformers canon. Breath easy, Michael Bay is NOT involved.
Don’t be disheartened G1 fans, the origins of Bruticus and the Dinobots are still tied somewhat to the 80s cartoon series. In Season 2 of the G1 series, Starscream created the Combaticons, the five combiners (Onslaught, Blast Off, Vortex, Brawl, and Swindle) who merge into Bruticus. Then, we later learned that they were already a group of deadly Decepticon renegades on Cybertron. Transformers: Fall of Cybertron will tell us more about their story on Cybertron while also sowing seeds for their relationship to Starscream.
In the upcoming game, you will be able to play as Vortex, the helicopter, as he stages an assault against the Autobot defense network, Teletraan 1. On a board called “The Sea of Rust”, we flew through an industrial board. Unlike the first game, there were various shades of oranges and brown colors instead of just brown-silver machine colors. The designers did an excellent job of keeping the set pieces mechanical, while adding more saturated colors and textures. It actually feels more like a steampunk setting than a robot city.
Once players combine into Bruticus (yes, it’s as awesome as it sounds), you will hear Bruticus say, “Bruticus online, ready for action.” It’s an epic moment, worthy of a touchdown dance. Bruticus has a flamethrower and also has a canon. When he uses the canon, you’ll see the game shift to an over-the-shoulder angle. The change in perspective helps you to feel the gravity of being a giant, powerhouse of destruction. Then, you’ll have to destroy a bridge to prove just how much chaos you can wreak on those puny Autobots. Bruticus will punch Autobots clear across the board with his ground-pound attacks. I couldn’t help but mentally start up the “Holy shit! Holy shit!” chant. Bruticus also taps Vortex for his rotorblades so that the giant can use them as a shield.
After seeing Bruticus in action, players will feel somewhat puny switching over to the Autobot side of the story. Activating Cliffjumper’s special invisibility cloak or Jazz’s grappling hook just doesn’t compare to Bruticus Smash. When Cliffjumper enters the map room of the ancients, he gets to check out a digital version of a planet that looked like Earth. With Cybertron’s Energon resources on the decline, both the Decepticons and Autobots will be setting their sites on a new home world.
The map room shows off more of the varied environments and use of a more robust color palette than the first game. You’ll see lots of blue, gold and red highlights. The quick preview of the map room, ended with Cliffjumper talking to Jazz about the map.
The big Autobot action came from Grimlock. While he’s not Bruticus, playing as a Dinosaur does have its share of nuance. As a dinosaur he’s a fire-breathing menace, who uses his tail to fling Decepticons left and right. He can also bite those pesky Insecticons and toss them like rag dolls. Players actually get to hear some great Grimlock dialogue. After tossing an Insecticon on the way to save Snarl, Grimlock yells, “Little bugs, do your worst.” As a robot, Grimlock doesn’t use a gun, but sticks to his titular sword and shield. If you had the G1 toys, this is an instant treat.
Grimlocks origin differs slightly from G1. Instead of Ratchet creating the Dinobots on Earth, plans for the Dinobots seem to come from Shockwave, who used his spacebridge to look back in time and learn about the dinosaurs. Coincidentally, the Insecticons are also the minions of Shockwave. There is also a mild ideology grudge between Grimlock and Optimus Prime. Grimlock is as recalcitrant as ever and wants to stay to fight the Decepticons, while Optimus wants to leave to save the Autobots.
Although the Aerial Bots, who transform into Superion, have not been announced. Autobot lovers will get to play as Metroplex. The combat is a little more stilted than playing as Bruticus. Metroplex gameplay is more based on helping out Optimus than taking over the combat. So don’t expect to run around as Metroplex. Still, it’s great to see that High Moon Studios did their research and gave fans more of the great G1 characters we loved from the cartoons, comics and toy line.
Transformers: Fall of Cybertron hits shelves this August. The multiplayer game will return, with more in-depth character customization as well as unlcokable weapons that will only be available in multiplayer. If the online multiplayer is as irresistible as the single player campaign, I’ll definitely be closing out my summer with endless hours of Transformers action.